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Dealing With Disappointment

Updated: Mar 3

Not satisfied? Explore your options.

Even the most optimistic among us have good reason to be restless, disappointed, fed up, or even angry with all the turmoil in the world today. The social contract many of us thought existed seems to be crumbling and our democracy feels fragile. Americans have lost trust in each other, our leaders, and our government. These feelings extend into our personal lives and influence our interactions with family, friends, and coworkers.

When faced with a dissatisfying situation, we have four different options:

  1. Exit

  2. Voice

  3. Loyalty

  4. Neglect

These options describe the Exit, Voice, Loyalty, Neglect (EVLN) Model. Let’s briefly explore each option in the context of interpersonal, employment, and business relationships. Keep in mind, you can also use this model to think about your relationship with the leadership in your town, state, or country and relationships nations have with each other.

Exit refers to the act of ending a relationship.

  • Interpersonal: Parting ways, breaking up, separating

  • Employment: Quitting, resigning

  • Business: Deciding to stop buying a product/service

We choose to exit when we feel in control and are not committed to the relationship.

Voice is actively attempting to improve the situation.

  • Interpersonal: Expressing dissatisfaction while focusing on improving the situation

  • Employment: Telling management what’s wrong and suggesting a solution

  • Business: Sharing concerns and expectations

While exit and voice both attempt to change the situation, we speak up when we are committed to the relationship.

Loyalty is passively but optimistically waiting for conditions to improve.

  • Interpersonal: Remembering found past memories and/or hoping for a brighter future

  • Employment: Passively waiting for the situation to get better

  • Business: Hoping the product or service improves

We choose loyalty when we feel we lack control but are committed to the relationship.

Neglect refers to staying in the dissatisfying situation but passively allowing conditions to get worse.

  • Interpersonal: Withdrawing your effort

  • Employment: Reducing interest/using company time for personal matters

  • Business: Remaining apathetically silent about concerns in the relationship

Neglect happens when we believe we lack control and we are not committed to the relationship.

Answers to two questions may help you predict your own and others behavior:

  1. Do you believe you have control in the relationship?

  2. Are you committed to improving the relationship?

Take a moment to think about where you are feeling heightened levels of dissatisfaction in your life. Then consider which approach you are currently taking and whether that is the approach you will consciously continue to take.

Do you have more control than you realize? What would it take to help you feel more committed?


Hirschman, A. O. (1970). Exit, voice, and loyalty: Responses to decline in firms, organizations, and states. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Rusbult, C. E., Farrell, D., Rogers, G., & Mainous III, A. G. (1988). Impact of exchange variables on exit, voice, loyalty, and neglect: An integrative model of responses to declining job satisfaction. Academy of Management journal, 31(3), 599-627.

Rusbult, C. E., Zembrodt, I. M., & Gunn, L. K. (1982). Exit, voice, loyalty, and neglect: Responses to dissatisfaction in romantic involvements. Journal of personality and social psychology, 43(6), 1230.

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